The National, Tuesday 21st August, 2012
MILNE Bay people have called on the newly elected Governor Titus Philemon to stop a foreign miner’s plans from exploring their seabed for minerals.
The Four Massim group of Milne Bay citizens and students have urged Philemon to cancel a mining warden’s hearing in Alotau tomorrow.
The hearing will consider applications by Canadian miner Nautilus Minerals to explore for seabed mining potential off Milne Bay, where it already has about 3,000sqkm of exploration tenements.
Four Massim’s Sineina Tosali said the government was supporting a high risk mining experiment, which could destroy Milne Bay people’s main means of livelihood – the ocean – without understanding the impacts or informing the affected communities.
“No-one has told us anything,” she said.
“We know Nautilus is using technology that hasn’t been used before and that there are going to be permanent scars from this … yet lots of people from Milne Bay don’t know what’s going on.
“We’re calling for information about the risks of impacts on locals, for assurances of marine protection and for recognition of customary ownership before any agreements are made.”
Four Massim formed following a public awareness forum about experimental seabed mining in Milne Bay last month.
Tosali said the group’s purpose was to create awareness among Milne Bay residents as well as other provinces targeted by Nautilus for experimental seabed mining.
Philemon was reportedly opposed to the experimental seabed mining even before he was elected.
Other MPs including Sumkar’s Ken Fairweather and Northern Governor Gary Juffa have publicly expressed their opposition to Nautilus’ plans.
Four Massim will also seek to hold an awareness campaign with all LLG presidents and the general public in Milne Bay province.
The move to advance exploration in Milne Bay comes after Nautilus received government approval for a 20-year licence to mine the Bismarck Sea for gold and copper at its Solwara-1 mine, located 50km off the coast of New Britain.
Tosali said rather than supporting such high-risk projects, the government should engage in development based on existing strengths in the local economy.
“Fishing projects are good for locals because that’s what people do, they have the skills to do it and it poses less risk to our environment and food security,” she said.
“We are a maritime province.
“We have already seen environmental impacts resulting from the Misima mine polluting our creeks and rivers.”